The present government shut down in the U.S. has shut down the National Radio Astronomy Observatory as well as NASA. As a result all radio telescopes in the NRAO network have been taken off line including the Very Large Array Telescope in New Mexico. The initial discovery of the G2 cloud was made with this radio telescope and earlier this year a committee of radio astronomers decided that the G2 cloud observations were so important that the Galactic center should be routinely observed on a weekly basis to monitor the progress of the G2 cloud as it approaches the Galactic core. These observations will now grind to a halt.
Other telescopes are shut down as well such as the Kepler Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the GALEX Space Telescope. This telescope shutdown is unprecedented in modern times.
In addition, the shut down of NASA could affect the Keck Telescope in Hawaii since NASA is a co funder and operator of this telescope. The Keck telescope has been used to give us clear infrared images of the G2 cloud. The NASA shut down also has people worried about observations of the incoming comet which some believe will make a close pass of the Sun.
Fortunately, there are other telescopes that are continuing to monitor the Galactic center such the VERA radio telescope array in Japan and the Taeduk radio telescope in South Korea. Also the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray telescope is still operational. The Chandra X-ray telescope which has done observations of the Galactic center has NASA funds to allow it to operate for just two more months until mid December. We are not totally blind as to what will be happening at the Galactic core. But efforts to observe the G2 cloud progress are nevertheless seriously hampered.
October 8, 2013
Posting updated October 11, 2013